Nicolae Tanase: Sadhviji, what’s the meaning of life?
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji: This is such a beautiful question and a question that resonates deeply with us all. Growing up in Los Angeles and being a psychology major, I was always cognizant of this question, but for me, it was mostly a philosophical or academic question that was discussed in the religious context of the Synagogue or with family and friends. Since that time twenty years ago, and with God’s Grace, I have had the joy and privilege of living and serving in Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, India. In this wonderful and divine land I have witnessed how the question ceases to be a question here, but instead a living embodiment of a truth that is expressed in miriad ways.
During my time in the Ashram and traveling throughout India I have seen so many people from the young to old, from rich to poor and from the north to south living and breathing the meaning of life. For so many people, the meaning of life is not a philosophical point, but the living of a meaningful life.
HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, spiritual head of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, has a beautiful saying that I feel perfectly encapsulates this meaning to life. The saying He teaches us is that “Giving is living, living is learning, learning is knowing, knowing is growing, growing is giving and giving is living. That is the cycle of life”.
Living a life of meaning through giving is a beautiful and practical answer to the original question. When we give, we truly live and not only does the world benefit from our giving, we also receive so much from our own acts of selfless giving, sharing an caring. Giving creates a beautiful circuitry in our lives, especially when it is motivated by love and compassion for our brothers and sisters. When we give, we develop deep sense of satisfaction, humility, gratitude in our lives as well as creating an opening in the universe for so many opportunities to enter our lives.
I once visited the home of a beautiful family who materially were very poor. Even though they hardly had enough money for food, they insisted that they send their son to the market to buy me a bottle of coke. I think because I am American in origin, people naturally assume that I love to drink coke and so I did my best to lovingly explain that I don’t drink coke. After a lot of discussion, they gracefully relented and gave me water. Even though their resources were so limited, the family were willing to give up their evening meal to buy me that coke to quench my thirst.
Although this level of giving is truly wonderful, it takes years of practice and we don’t actually need to give our very last pennies in order to be giving. What’s more important is to start the cycle of giving and living in way that creates a connection between yourself and others. Giving can take form in so many ways; it can be a phone call to a long lost friend or relative, a smile to a stranger on the street or kind words and deeds to those around you.
Regardless of where you are in the world or your personal circumstances we can all live meaningful lives through simple daily acts of giving. I hope and pray that we all live meaningful lives and this is one practical step we can all take towards a life full of meaning.
~Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji is President of the Divine Shakti Foundation, a foundation dedicated to bringing education and empowerment to women and children which runs free schools, vocational training programs and empowerment programs. She is also Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, an international interfaith organization dedicated to bringing clean water, sanitation and hygiene to the children of the world. She has also been a featured speaker at the United Nations, Parliament of World Religions and many international conferences and summits. Sadhviji was officially ordained into the order of Sanyas (monastic renunciation) in 2000, by His Holiness Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, one of the most renowned spiritual leaders of India.
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